Last updated: August 6, 2021

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A wetsuit has become standard equipment for many different water sports. Whether you are snorkelling, surfing, swimming, kayaking or diving, you always need a wetsuit. It protects your body from cooling down and dangerous UV rays during all kinds of water sports.

With our big wetsuit test 2021 we want to help you find the perfect suit. We have compared lycras, rash guards / rash vests, spring wetsuits and full suits / steamers with each other and listed the respective advantages and disadvantages. We hope this will make your purchase decision easier.




Summary

  • A wetsuit is usually made of foamed neoprene and is also called a semi-dry suit, semi-dry suit or semi-dry suit. The neoprene of the wetsuit consists of many small gas bubbles and, as the name "wet" suggests, does not keep you dry, but they do hinder the direct exchange of water and provide good thermal insulation.
  • There are a total of three different types of wetsuits: Lycras and Rash Guards / Rash Vests, as well as Spring Wetsuits and Fullsuits / Steamers. You need a different wetsuit depending on the waters you are in and the temperatures there.
  • When choosing the right wetsuit, you should not only look at the cut of the wetsuit, but also at the material density. The following applies: The colder the water, the thicker your wetsuit should be.

The Best Wetsuit: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for wetsuits

Here you can find out which criteria are used to distinguish between wetsuits. We want to make your final purchase decision as easy as possible. The criteria you can use to compare wetsuits include:

In the following section we will go into more detail on the individual aspects.

Material thickness

The thickness of your wetsuit is of immense importance. Since a wetsuit is supposed to protect you from cooling down your body and from UV rays, you should think carefully about the thickness of your wetsuit before buying it.

The thickness of the neoprene is usually given in millimetres. In addition, the material is usually a little thicker in the torso area of your upper body and a little thinner on your extremities (arms, legs).

If you are researching for a new wetsuit and come across suits with a material thickness of, for example, 5/4 mm, this means that the neoprene of the wetsuit is 5 mm thick on the torso and 4 mm thick on the arms and legs.

The thickness of the material you need depends on the water temperature, the weather conditions and your personal perception of the cold.

The general rule of thumb is that the thickness of the neoprene is determined by the temperature of the water, i.e. the colder the water, the thicker your wetsuit should be. In the following table, we would like to give you a small indication of the water temperature and the type of wetsuit that is recommended:

Water temperature Wetsuit type
above 25 °C Swimwear and UV Lycra
22 - 25 °C 1 or 2 mm Rash Guard / Rash Vest and Board Shorts
17 - 22 °C 4/3 Spring Wetsuit
10 - 17 °C 5/4 Fullsuit / Steamer with Shoes and Hood
below 10 °C 6/5/4 Steamer with Neoshirt, Shoes and Hood

Type of closure

Once you have found the right thickness of material for your wetsuit, you now have to decide what kind of zip you want. A zip is a great help when putting on your wetsuit. The longer the zip, the easier it is to put on and take off your wetsuit. There are four different types of zippers:

  • Front zip: With this model, the zip is located, as the name suggests, on the front of the wetsuit. The front zip has the advantage that relatively little water penetrates the wetsuit and that it makes it much easier to put on and take off.
  • Back zip: The back zip is located on the back of the wetsuit. There is usually a long strap on the fastener to allow it to open and close independently. Compared to the front zip, the back zip has the advantage that it does not press against your upper body when you are lying on your surfboard.
  • Chest Zip: The Chest Zip is located horizontally at chest level of the suit. With this type of closure, hardly any water penetrates the wetsuit and therefore keeps you warmer.
  • No Zip: There is no zip on your wetsuit at all. Although it takes a little practice to put on, this model gives you maximum comfort and minimum water ingress.

Type of seam

Not only the type of zip plays a role when buying a wetsuit, but also the right stitching. The market for wetsuits has changed constantly over time and newer and newer stitching techniques have been developed. Generally speaking, four different seams can be distinguished:

  • Flatlock: In this version, the seams are particularly strong and flexible. They are created by an overlapping stitching technique and ensure good water and air permeability. They are particularly suitable for wetsuits for warmer water temperatures.
  • Tapet: As the name suggests, stretchable tapes are glued to the inside of the seam. They provide good comfort, are very durable and water resistant.
  • Glued & Blindstitched (GBS): Here the neoprene parts are first glued and then sewn on one side with blindstitches. This stitching is particularly water repellent.
  • Sealed: In this model, the seam is sealed with a special sealant. This gives it maximum water resistance.

Size and fit

When choosing the right size of wetsuit, you can use your normal clothing size as a guide. The wetsuit should fit snugly around your body, but of course you should still be able to get enough air.

When buying your wetsuit, bear in mind that the manufacturers sometimes give quite different size tables, i.e. your size can vary quite a lot from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Our tip is to order several sizes of your wetsuit and then choose the one that fits best. To give you a better idea of what sizes are available on the market, we have put together a fairly common size chart:

Size Men Women
XS 60-71 kg / 160-175 cm 42-52 kg / 145-165 cm
XSL 60-71 kg / 175-185 cm -
S 68-79 kg / 165-180 cm 50-57 kg / 150-165 cm
SL 72-79 kg / 180-190 cm -
M 78-88 kg / 175-185 cm 60-72 kg / 165-180 cm
ML 80-90 kg / 185-195 cm -
ML+ 85-95 kg / 175-190 cm -
L 86-98 kg / 185-200 cm 72+ kg / 170-185 cm
XL 95+ kg / 185-205+ cm -

Accessories

Depending on where you will be riding your surfboard, you may need additional protective gear besides your wetsuit. You should consider the following accessories in addition to buying a wetsuit:

  • Booties: Booties are especially suitable if you want to dive or surf near reefs, for example. The rubber shoes protect your feet from injuries caused by sea urchins and the like and also keep them warm in cold water. The rubber sole also gives you a better grip on your surfboard.
  • Gloves: Similar to booties, gloves ensure that you don't injure yourself and also protect you from the cold. Gloves are a good addition to a winter wetsuit.
  • Bonnet: A hoody protects your head from cold wind and water. It also offers good protection against UV rays.

Decision: What types of wetsuits are there and which one is right for you?

If you want to buy a wetsuit, there are three alternatives to choose from:

Type Advantages Disadvantages
Lycras and Rash Guards / Rash Vests easy to put on and take off, quick to dry no protection for remaining body parts
Spring Wetsuits good thermal insulation, good protection against injuries and abrasions no protection in sensitive areas such as elbows and knees.E.g. elbows and knees
Fullsuits / Steamer ideal thermal insulation even in cold and windy conditions, ideal protection against injuries and abrasions difficult to put on and take off

If you want to know more about the different types of wetsuits, we have summarised the most important points in the following sections.

Lycras and Rash Guards / Rash Vests

Lycras and Rash Guards / Rash Vests

These types of wetsuits are mainly worn in warm waters with a water temperature of 20 °C and above. A lycra is a sleeveless neoprene top and a rash guard or rash vest is a neoprene top with sleeves.

They offer good protection against dangerous UV radiation and against injury from sharp edges or marine animals. They also keep at least the upper body nice and warm, are easy to put on and take off and dry very quickly.

Advantages
  • good protection of the upper body against UV radiation
  • easy to put on and take off
  • quick drying
Disadvantages
  • no protection for other parts of the body
  • lower thermal insulation

Because they only cover the upper part of the body, the remaining parts of the body are not sufficiently protected from injury or UV radiation. In addition, they have lower thermal insulation.

Spring Wetsuits

Spring wetsuits

Spring wetsuits are one-piece wetsuits with half arms and legs. They usually have a material thickness of between 0.5 and 3 millimetres. Springsuits keep your body warm enough and protect it from injuries and abrasions. Compared to lycra and rash guards, they also protect the lower part of the body from UV rays and do not slip during swimming.

Advantages
  • good thermal insulation
  • good protection against injuries and abrasions
  • non-slip
Disadvantages
  • no protection in sensitive areas, such as elbows and knees
  • difficult to put on and take off

They do not offer sufficient protection, especially in sensitive areas such as elbows and knees. They are also much more difficult to put on than lycras and rash guards.

Fullsuits / Steamer

Fullsuits / Steamer

A fullsuit or steamer is a one-piece wetsuit with long arms and legs. It usually has a material thickness of 2 to 6 millimetres. A one-piece wetsuit offers sufficient protection from the cold and UV rays over the entire body.

If you want to surf in particularly cold waters, for example, then a steamer is your ideal companion. In addition, you can buy a fullsuit with an integrated head bonnet so that you are sufficiently protected from the cold and wind.

Advantages
  • Ideal insulation even in cold and windy conditions
  • ideal protection against injuries and abrasions
Disadvantages
  • difficult to put on and take off

A major disadvantage of the steamer is that it is quite difficult to put on and take off compared to the other wetsuit types. Even with an integrated zip, a fullsuit is not easy to put on.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about wetsuits answered in detail

In the following we would like to answer the most important questions about wetsuits. We have selected the questions for you and will answer them shortly. After reading the guide, you will know all the essential background information about wetsuits.

Who is a wetsuit for?

As described in the sections above, a wetsuit is suitable for a wide range of different water sports. Depending on which water sport it is needed for and where you want to practice it, it needs to have different features.

Wetsuit-1

A wetsuit is perfect for surfing. It protects your body from cooling down and UV radiation.
(Image source: frank mckenna / Unsplash)

If you surf in warmer waters, for example, you need a lycra or rash guard, and in colder waters you need a spring wetsuit or steamer. In general, a wetsuit makes sense at temperatures below 23°C.

How tight should a wetsuit fit?

Since you won't have the same expert advice online as in a surf shop or sports shop, you should follow a few tips to ensure that your wetsuit fits perfectly:

  • When putting on the wetsuit, make sure that it fits snugly around the neck, arms and legs.
  • Make sure that you can still breathe well despite the tight fit and that you have sufficient freedom of movement.
  • Avoid creases under the arms, in the back of the knees or at the shoulders.

How much does a wetsuit cost?

To give you an overview of the prices of the different types of wetsuits, we have put together a table with all the important price information below:

material thickness price ladies price men
1 mm approx. 47 to 96 euros from 89 euros
1.5 mm - from 58 euros
2 mm approx. 36 to 179 euros approx. 35 to 170 euros
2.5 mm approx. 56 to 117 euros approx. 56 to 175 euros
3 mm approx. 52 to 218 euros approx. 53 to 200 euros
3.5 mm approx. 101 to 555 euros from 116 euros
4 mm approx. 92 to 218 euros approx. 112 to 611 euros
4.5 mm from 116 euros from 116 euros
5 mm approx. 96 to 213 euros approx. 112 to 187 euros
6 mm - approx. 119 to 187 euros

What is a more environmentally friendly alternative to a neoprene wetsuit?

As you probably know, the production of neoprene as a synthetic rubber is very harmful to the environment. However, there are a few manufacturers who have made it their business to produce wetsuits as sustainably and environmentally friendly as possible. In the meantime, wetsuits with up to 85% natural rubber are also available on the market.

Wetsuit-2

A wetsuit is also ideal for snorkelling or diving.
(Image source: Shane Stagner / Unsplash)

If you care about the environment, make sure your wetsuit is made as transparently or sustainably as possible, and that it is made either partially or entirely without neoprene.

What should you wear under a wetsuit?

The following applies to this question: Everyone likes it! Whether you want to wear something under your wetsuit or not is purely a matter of taste.

For example, some women prefer to wear a sports bra or a sports bikini or swimming costume under their wetsuit. If you have only rented your wetsuit, then for hygienic reasons it goes without saying that you should wear a swimming costume or bikini under your wetsuit.

How do you put on a wetsuit correctly?

Putting on a wetsuit is not as easy as you might imagine. Anyone who has worn a wetsuit knows that it can be quite a struggle! To make sure that putting on your new wetsuit doesn't become a struggle, we've put together a little guide for you:

  1. Pulling up the suit trousers: Start at the legs of the wetsuit and pull a plastic bag over your feet. Then pull your suit up one leg at a time, then the other.
  2. Pull up the top: When you have finished with your legs and your suit fits properly, pull it up at your hips.
  3. Pulling up the sleeves: Now pull the plastic bag over your hands and pull up the sleeves of the suit.
  4. Close the zip: Finally, close the zip. That's it!

How do you clean a wetsuit?

After you have ridden waves or gone diving in your wetsuit, for example, you should clean it after a certain period of time, but not after every dive or wave.

You should never wring out your wetsuit after washing or drying it, and never leave it in direct sunlight! Otherwise the neoprene will crack and become brittle.

It is best to use a special detergent that is suitable for cleaning wetsuits. Make sure that your detergent has a disinfecting effect and that the elasticity and flexibility of the neoprene is not affected.

In addition, you should always wash your wetsuit by hand and not with a washing machine! When you have finished cleaning the suit, gently squeeze it out. To make sure your wetsuit dries quickly and completely, turn it inside out and dry it in a shady place.

Image source: Crego/ 123rf.com

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